finds 'dead zone above Mona Lake Dave LeMieux
cattails growing in a wetland area along a stretch of
a Mona Lake tributary stream disguise the fact the area
is a virtual "dead zone" for small aquatic animals, according
to Grand Valley State biologist Don Uzarski.
"At first glance, it's
the worst wetland I've studied in the state," said Uzarski,
about a section of Little Black Creek near Mona View Cemetery.
The contamination appears
to be spreading downstream toward Mona Lake, scientists
Uzarski said the most
likely cause of the damage are heavy metals, including
cadmium, from the Peerless Plating U.S. Environmental
Superfund cleanup site just over a mile upstream.
Uzarski presented preliminary
results of recent research at Tuesday's meeting of the
Mona Lake Watershed Project. The Community Foundation
for Muskegon County project is funded by a $100,000 grant
from the C.S. Mott Foundation.
A few area residents
and environmental activists joined a group of about 30
local government officials for the meeting at Grand Valley
State's Annis Water Resources Institute in downtown Muskegon.
Uzarski and other Grand
Valley State scientists discussed early results of studies
on pollution levels and plant and animal populations in
the 48,000-acre Mona Lake watershed.
The watershed stretches
from Lake Michigan into southwestern Newaygo County and
encompasses Little Black Creek, Black Creek and Mona Lake.
Wetlands like the one
along Little Black Creek near the cemetery should harbor
a wide range of tiny aquatic animals in the stream, muck
and cattails, Uzarski says.
However, there appear
to be only a few bloodworms where there should be countless
freshwater shrimp, dragonfly larvae, blackfly larvae and
sow bugs, said Uzarski.
Uzarski has studied
more than 100 wetlands across the state, from those which
are relatively pristine to those badly contaminated.
"Unfortunately, I think
I've found the most extremely impacted community (in Little
Black Creek)," Uzarski said.
Uzarski's research team
is part of an international study which is developing
methods to determine the degree and causes of wetland
Peerless Plating at
2554 Getty is the source of some of the worst cadmium
contamination ever measured in the state, according to
Grand Valley's Rick Rediske, a senior scientist specializing
in environmental chemistry.
The only solution may
be to remove the contaminated sediment, Rediske said.
Cadmium builds up in
plants and animals and can cause lung damage, liver disease
and brain or nerve damage. Tests have shown it is likely
to cause cancer in people.
A large number of other
heavy metals and toxic chemicals have been discovered
in Little Black Creek as well. The six-mile long stream
originates near Mill Iron Road in Muskegon Township. It
flows under U.S. 31 near Mercy General Health Partners
hospital and flows through Muskegon Heights before emptying
into Mona Lake opposite the Muskegon County Airport.
There are other problems
facing the watershed as well.
Oil is still leaking
from the abandoned Marathon Oil Refinery near the headwaters
of Little Black Creek.
Sandy sediments are
choking Black Creek, which also has a pair of Superfund
sites -- Thermo-Chem Inc. and Lakeway Bofors Nobel Inc.
-- on its banks.
Mona Lake is oxygen-poor
and contains high levels of nutrients like phosphorus
that can lead to runaway algae blooms. A likely source
of the nutrients is runoff from fertilized lawns.
Sewage spills from a
Muskegon County Wastewater System lift station on Little
Black Creek near the Peerless Site have also contributed
to persistently high fecal coliform levels in Mona Lake.